Archive | August 2012

Editorial Staff

Editor-in-Chief:  Tim Connelly [ connelly.tim-at-gmail.com ]

Co-Editors:  Ken Wannemacher, Allison Beal, Bethany Broookshire, Morgan Reuter, Caleph Wilson

Science: It’s a Girl Thing?

By Bethany Brookshire
bbroo-at-mail.med.upenn.edu

Three girls sashay toward the camera, hips swinging in high fashion dresses.  A male scientist, staring into his microscope, looks up and puts on his geeky glasses in shock. Blowing kisses and makeup powder, sending molecules crashing  to the floor  around  their  stilettos,  these  girls  are here  to  laugh,  smile,  tilt  their  sunglasses…and   take  over your laboratory.

Science: it’s a girl thing.

This was the teaser video  ( http://bit.ly/KSab5G ) that the EU Commission put out to advertise their new effort to get more girls to pursue science. The accompanying website: http://science-­girl‐thing.eu has interviews with female scientists in various fields, reasons that science needs you, and options for jobs in science-­‐related fields. Even though it doesn’t have much information on how to get started, the website is an appealing way to get girls interested in science by pushing the idea of making a positive impact on the world.

But the teaser video didn’t provide such a good start. While some  did  enjoy  the  video  and  see  it  as  lighthearted,  the video  drew  widespread   criticism  from  both  women  and men in the scientific community. Much of the criticism was based on the stereotypes of women presented in the video ( http://bit.ly/Re8XmC ), and argued   that replacing   geeky with girly wasn’t enough to get the job done. Still more criticism was based on the lack of science in the video itself ( http://bit.ly/ML01jk ). Having   fun,  laughing   and  playing with  your  necklace  in  a  lab  is  nice,  but  it’s  not  exactly scientific discovery. And, as many critics also pointed out: science is a people thing ( http://bit.ly/RlTAa9 ). Not a girl thing, not a boy thing.  Science doesn’t care how you are dressed or what you look like ( http://bit.ly/QHuhSs ). Replacing scientific stereotypes with girly stereotypes isn’t going to change the reality of science itself. Finally, many   critics   pointed   out   that   there   are   a  lot   of   good resources out there to get girls interested in science ( http://bit.ly/Re8XmC ), showing  girls  their  own  age  who are   already   into   science,   as   well   projects   like   “I’m   a Scientist”  (http://imascientist.org.uk)  where  kids  can interacts  with  scientists  and  ask  them  questions,  allowing them to see the scientific life firsthand.

However, these are the reactions of grownups; what about the intended audience?

A test group of young girls reacted well to the video ( http://bit.ly/NlXHib ), saying that “it made science for me”, and “it appealed to me” (though, depressingly,   the   girls   also   commented   “there   was maths   in  the  video  and  I  find  maths   difficult”).   It’s possible that these girls would be more likely to click through the trailer to the website and check out some of the careers. But not all responses were so rosy ( http://bit.ly/Nhtm63 ), and some studies show that the effects  of  videos  like  these  may  be  more  hurtful  than helpful ( http://bit.ly/Mcj3Sy ). A recent study by Diana Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa gave 11-­‐13 year old girls a series of short blurbs about women in science or in unrelated fields. Half of the women were also described as being obviously feminine, while the other half were described neutrally.  The authors found that the girls rated the overtly feminine role models as less attractive than the neutrally described models ( http://bit.ly/I85i3c ). Digging deeper into their reasons, the authors   found that the girls viewed   the overtly feminine scientific role models as having lives that were less    achievable     than    those     that    were    neutrally described. So it’s possible that the teaser might make science  seem  even  less  attainable  to  some  girls;  you have to be smart and perfect looking, too?  

While   the teaser   video   ended   up garnering   a large amount of criticism, it certainly started a conversation. And as it turned out, the conversation was two-­‐way. After hearing some of the backlash, the EU Commission took   the teaser   video   down   ( http://bit.ly/MpNOBE ), and   began   asking   female   scientists   on   Twitter   and through   other   channels   how   they   should   go   about appealing to  girls using the hashtag #realwomeinscience,  and  offering  to  change  the campaign. It’s not too late to contribute! If you liked the teaser, or if you didn’t, the EU Commission wants to hear your thoughts on how to get more girls interested in pursuing scientific careers. You can tweet them using the hashtag listed above, or contact them via twitter or their website ( http://science-girl-­thing.eu ). The more input they get, the more they can effectively reach girls and get them thinking about scientific careers.

BPC 2nd Annual Vendor Fair

By Lucas Smith

smithlu-at-dental.upenn.edu

 

On July 24th, the BPC hosted our 2nd Annual Vendor Fair and Technology Seminar.  With 20 local and national vendors it was an opportunity for our postdocs to see the latest innovations in biological research products. The vendor fair fund-raising initiative by BPC was profiled this year in The Daily Pennsylvanian as well as the ScienceCareers Blog, and the event generated almost $8,000 for the BPC to fund events throughout the year.  Vendors came away saying it was their best event of the year, as they were able to target the postdocs who use and choose so many of their products.  Many even expressed interest joining us for another show this winter!  If you want to be involved in helping the BPC host another successful event please contact fundraising committee chair Lucas Smith [ smithlu-at-dental.upenn.edu ].  We look forward to making more vendor shows accessible to postdocs as well as helping to fund our other events.

The BPC Needs Help Creating an Industry Exploration Program

By Tim Connelly
connelly.tim-at-gmail.com

The BPC is looking for post-­‐docs to create an industry exploration program ( http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v28/n6/full/nbt0610‐625.html ). The purpose of the program is to establish connections between post-­‐docs and local industries to promote familiarity, collaboration, and career guidance.  It is an opportunity to network with a variety of post-­‐docs, human  resource  managers,  alumni,  and people who work in  intellectual  property  and  tech  transfer,  while  helping your  colleagues  realize  their  career  goals.  The program largely consists of organizing site-­‐visits to area companies. The following are a few recommendations   for how and why one could create such a program (many of these points are   based   on   a   seminar   by   Christopher   Tsang   of   UC-­ Berkeley):

Why set up the program?

Post-­‐docs  are  for  the  most  part  unfamiliar   with  which companies   are  in  their   area,   what   kinds   of  jobs  local companies  offer  to  Ph.D.’s,  and  what  career  trajectories might develop from such jobs. The problem is exacerbated by  the  fact  that  companies  are  difficult  to  visit  on  one’s own,  and  many  scientists’  professional  networks  are  too small and their career goals too undefined to know where to  start.  This  is  an  issue  for  industry  as  well;  they  are looking for great post-­‐docs either for hiring, collaboration, or even networking.

Where to start?

The first place to start is by gathering information.  You might want to survey the post-­‐doc population: Who is interested?  What companies are they interested in? What are their career goals? You’ll also want to examine which companies are in the area and what sorts of jobs they offer. Once the basic information is collected, the next step is setting up the infrastructure. In general this involves collecting  a  short  resumé  and  biosketch  from  interested post-­‐docs (Google Docs and Google Forms are easy-­‐to-­‐use programs  for  collecting  this  information   as  well  as  the survey data). The prospective companies might also appreciate a standard, brief description of the program and its goals. With these in hand, you’ll need to think about how you are going to select people, who will have priority, how  many  times  can  one  post-­‐doc  participate,  how  will you announce events, and how will people RSVP (and what to do if somebody doesn’t show up). At this point, you’re probably going to need help contacting people and getting everyone on the same page.

Where to get help?

To name a few:

•     Career services

•     The BPP (Biomedical Post-­‐doctoral Program)

•     Alumni networks

•     Business development/Tech transfer/Intellectual property offices

•     Professional associations (of both post-­‐docs and industries, AWIS, etc.)

•     Personal connections

•     Career fairs

•     Conferences

Career services and the BPP could be especially helpful in making the connections you will need. They can also provide resumé/etiquette guidance, and they might be able to schedule timely seminars that address related topics (for example, a seminar by an immigration attorney to clarify issues that might affect foreign post-­‐ docs, or tailoring the established networking/resumé/ etiquette/informational interview seminars towards specific site-­‐visits).

Sitevisits

For site-­‐visits, you could incorporate these elements:

•     Welcome/overview

•     Panel discussion with employees from various levels

•     Networking hour/lunch (a 3:1 post-­‐doc to employee ratio seems effective)

•     Feedback from both post-­‐docs and companies – this will be crucial to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Large companies are generally more prepared and more likely to have people dedicated to this type of outreach. Remember that a happy and enthusiastic HR Manager is invaluable, so make sure you show gratitude to those who helped  set  up  the  visit  with  a  gift  card,  food  basket  or similar gesture.

An  Industry  Exploration  Program  is  an  excellent opportunity  to help your fellow post-­‐docs find out where they  are  going  and  what  they  want  to do. In the meantime, you will be establishing a number of connections that will be sure to profit you in whatever career you choose. With 3-­‐4 post-­‐docs working together, the program should be fairly low-­‐maintenance. If you are interested in helping set up this program, please e-­‐mail BPC Council Co-­‐Chair Rohinton Tarapore at pcouncil-at-mail.med.upenn.edu

In Memory of Dr. Phoebe Leboy: Scientist and Advocate

By Allison Beal
allisonbeal25-at-gmail.com

Professor  Phoebe  Starfield  Leboy,  a  retired  professor  at the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania,  passed  away  at  the  age  of  75  on  June  16, 2012  from  complications  of amyotrophic  lateral  sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).   You may not be aware of her significant accomplishments in both science and in advocacy for women in STEM, since she retired in 2005 before many of us arrived at Penn. I think it is important that our community know that she was truly a pioneer in her scientific fields of nucleic acid modifications and, later, regenerative medicine.  But some of her most groundbreaking work was in her activism, promoting equality for women in science at both Penn and at the national level.

Three of her Penn colleagues, Dr.’s Sherrill Adams, Susan Margulies and Susan Volk, noted that Professor Leboy was “a rare creature” when she joined the faculty at the Dental School  in  1967.  At the time, she was only one of a few women among many men on the faculty. When she was promoted to tenure three years later, she was the only tenured woman among the faculty at the Dental School. It might be hard for us to imagine today, but she remained the only tenured woman at the dental school for 21 years!

Professor Leboy began keeping track of gender inequities long  before  it  became  a  priority  at  Penn  and  at  other academic institutions. She helped organize and chair an advocacy organization called Women for Equal Opportunity at the University of Pennsylvania (WEOUP) in 1970, which was formed since the university was unable to develop a federally-­‐mandated affirmative action plan. She also helped organize a sit-­‐in at Penn in response to a series of rapes on campus. This ultimately led to the founding of the Penn Women’s Center, a Women’s studies program, and victim support services. In 2000-­‐2001, she co-­‐chaired Penn’s Task Force on Gender Inequity.  The  work  of  this task force led to the creation  of the Senate  Committee  on Faculty  Development,  Diversity  and  Equity  and  the creation  of  mentorship   programs  for  all  junior  faculty across the university. In addition to these and many other accomplishments that drastically improved women’s experiences at Penn, she also personally mentored numerous    women    graduate    students,    postdocs    and faculty during her time at Penn.

On the national level, Professor Leboy was a founding member of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). AWIS was founded in 1971 after a series of informal meetings at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental  Biology  (FASEB)  meeting  that  year  where the  women  realized  that  job  discrimination,  lower  pay, and professional isolation were huge issues. Since it’s founding, AWIS has fought to improve these issues and achieve equity in STEM. Professor Leboy served as AWIS President in 2008 and 2009 and was an active supporter of the AWIS-­‐PHL local chapter.  In 2001, she served as a Penn liaison on the “MIT9”. This group, composed of presidents,   chancellors,   provosts,   and several   scholars from nine of the top research institutions, met at MIT to initiate novel discussions on the barriers faced by women faculty in science and engineering. For more than forty years, Professor Leboy tirelessly fought to achieve equity for  women  in  STEM,  writing  numerous  articles, conducting countless studies and serving as a principle investigator  on an NSF ADVANCE  PAID grant to increase the  recognition  of  women  in  scientific  disciplinary societies.

Professor  Leboy was a scientist  who was dedicated  both to  her  science   and  to  the  advancement   of  women   in science  and  engineering.  Her advocacy later broadened its focus to include equality for women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. Her passion for promoting   women and minorities   in STEM fields was truly admirable and inspirational.  What is striking is that she was determined to continue her advocacy throughout her illness even until the very end of her life. She wrote and submitted a recent article to the journal DNA and Cell Biology on the limited diversity among medical school faculty. This article was just published online and I highly recommend reading it. While there is still a lot of work to do to achieve equality in the STEM, Professor Leboy significantly contributed to several advances that have been made thus far. I think Professor Leboy said it best as she  shared   with  her  friend   and  former   colleague   Dr. Sherrill  Adams,  Professor  at  the  Dental  School,  “We’ve come a long way-­‐be proud.”

There will be a memorial service at Penn to honor Phoebe Leboy that is tentatively scheduled for October 19, 2012 in Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall from 12:30-­2:30 pm (look for more details on our  blog).